The Market Roost is a Flemington treasure! Located at 65 Main Street, this caterer, restaurant, and gift gallery has been pleasing its customers since it opened in 1981. Situated in the Flemington historic district, it offers professional service in a friendly and charming setting.
Then, there is the food!
Owner and chef Norman Todd is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and served as chef in many fine restaurants in California and Florida before opening Market Roost. His co-owner and wife Carol Todd is the pastry chef, food stylist, and catering event planner, as well as overseer of the eclectic gift selection.
“The business really evolved,” notes Ms. Todd. “Originally, we had planned to be a market, and then we decided to have a restaurant too. People would come in to buy items, and then stay to eat. The 1980s were a time of a renaissance in food.”
Brunch and Lunch
“The catering business came along a bit later. We started as an eatery for brunch and lunch. Then, eight months after we opened, a customer asked if we could cater her wedding. Now, we do all kinds of catering — corporate, private, and lots of weddings. It’s all across the board, and everything is customized. We do the total package. We have an in-house floral designer, and we work with a great rental company.”
With the advent of the internet, the Market Roost’s reputation, already well-established, has spread even farther afield, reports Ms. Todd. “Recently, an independent film company from Brooklyn, N.Y. found our website, and contacted us. “They were in Hunterdon County for a project, and they wanted catering for their company. They were very pleased with the results!”
The Market Roost is available for every kind of party and event, from picnics to elegant galas — both residential and corporate. “We did a Texas-style barbecue and then a corporate event for 1000 guests. It really varies. We start getting very busy in March with engagement parties and showers, and St. Patrick’s Day events. Then, of course, in the spring, summer, and fall, there are lots of weddings.
“Menus can be theme-oriented to include foods of Tuscany, Caribbean and Latino foods, French and Asian influences,” continues Ms. Todd, who also specializes in menu development. “Menus are developed by the customer’s food wishes and budget. We are very flexible, and work closely with our clients. Many catered events are held at private homes, offices, or at one of Hunterdon County’s historical sites. We have access to many off-site locations.”
The Market Roost has a very loyal clientele, both for catering and dining at the restaurant, and they come from all over, notes Ms. Todd. “We get people from northern N.J., New York City, and even California, when they are in the area.”
The enthusiastic critiques the Market Roost has received in the local press, as well as in The New York Times and Star Ledger, among others, has reinforced its reputation. It was also featured on the Food Network for a year on Dining Around, and its recipes were included in specialty cookbooks, and the Zagat Dining Guide.
“We often have young couples and professionals from Manhattan who come out to enjoy weekends in the country,” notes Ms. Todd. “They become repeat customers here. One of our regulars in Manhattan sent his chauffeur to pick up Thanksgiving dinner for 12. Locally, we have a lot of people from Princeton and Montgomery Township.”
Open for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea and pastries, the Market Roost is especially known for its super Sunday brunches. “Our special Sunday brunch menu has been reviewed and rated by many food critics as one of the best Sunday brunches to be found,” says Ms. Todd. “Each item is individually prepared by Norman with the infusion of many flavors. Everything is made from scratch. The Eggs Benedict with freshly-made Hollandaise sauce are extremely popular. Also our Kahlua French toast includes thick sliced egg bread, is egg-dipped, pan-cooked with clarified, unsalted butter, topped with Vermont maple syrup and toasted almonds, and choice of bacon, sausage, or ham.
Other brunch specialties are corned beef hash (house-cured beef brisket, Idaho potato, Italian parsley, and cracked black pepper), served with a poached egg; baked croissant with French brie, Granny Smith apples, and honey mustard; fresh pineapple corn fritters, with Vermont maple syrup, choice of bacon, Pennsylvania linked sausage, or ham; and a variety of omelets, specialty pancakes and Belgian waffles.
The lunch menu is equally popular, featuring salads, sandwiches, and assorted chef’s specials. “Norman’s veggie and grain burger with creamy honey curry dressing, green salad, tomato dill dressing, multi-grain flatbread with melted cheddar is a real favorite,” says Ms. Todd. “By the way, we have 12 different salad dressings made from scratch.”
Salads and Sandwiches
Other popular choices are quiche with hand-rolled parmesan crust, roasted root vegetables or caramelized onion and bacon, Gruyere cheese and custard, green salad or fresh fruit; jumbo lump crab cakes with cole slaw, tartar sauce, and corn muffin. The Market Roost’s international theme is evidenced by its inclusion of spanakopita, with Greek style spinach and feta cheese enveloped in filo with Greek salad.
Salads include chicken breast; Caesar; seasoned warmed roasted vegetables over fresh mixed greens; organic grain (high protein grain with veggies, and hummus); Oriental spring rolls with mixed greens; and tapas platter (including Green salad), among others. Salads and sandwiches start at $7.95, and chef’s specials range from $9.50 to $14.50.
Pastries and baked goods have always been a strong part of the Market Roost’s business, and all baking is done from scratch, with the finest ingredients, emphasizes Ms. Todd. “Our baking is European-style. We baked croissants early in the 80s when the American public was just beginning to know what a croissant was. Muffins, scones, sticky buns, pies, quiches, cakes, tortes, wedding, and special occasion cakes are made with fresh fillings and European-style butter cream.
“We are food artists,” she adds. “We love what we do. A woman has been coming in twice a week to bake with me for the past 25 years. Baking is very labor-intensive. It can take eight hours to make a wedding cake.”
Popular baked choices include Granny Smith apple cake with sour cream, lemon pound cake, black velvet flourless chocolate cake, creme brulee Cheesecake, and carrot cake. Four kinds of biscotti, various brownies, cookies, and cupcakes are other tasty treats.
Pies are another big focus, and Ms. Todd is especially noted for her fruit pies. “There is more interest in fruit pies now, and I fill my pies with an abundance of fruit. Cherry is a real favorite.”
Coffee, cappuccino, hot chocolate, and a variety of teas are also available.
Ms. Todd adds that generally, people are interested in healthier diets today, and have moved away from some of the richer choices that were previously popular. “We have always emphasized farm to table. There is so much local produce here in the summer that we have always been able to offer the freshest products.”
In addition to the food, including cheeses, baked goods to go, gift baskets, handmade chocolates, and an eclectic home accessories gift selection are available. The shelves are filled with everything from pottery from Tuscany to candles and napkins to platters and teacups to a very popular jewelry selection.
Providing a pleasant, relaxed environment is important to the Todds. “Customers say they feel good when they come here,” notes Ms. Todd. “I always tell them to relax and take their time. We want them to take time to savor the taste!”
Among those who have done just that was the late Julia Child, who had a home in the area. “She enjoyed coming in to eat and spending time here” recalls Ms. Todd. “I like the interaction with the customers who come in to eat and also those who want catering service. We enjoy educating people about food, and I look forward to introducing even more customers to the Market Roost and seeing our business continue to grow.”
The Market Roost is open Wednesday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 9:30 to 5, Sunday 9:30 to 2 for brunch, and 2 to 3:30 for lunch. (908) 788-4949. Website: marketroost.com.
For catering service, Ms. Todd recommends six months to a year notice for weddings, and at least two weeks for other events.